Fat cells in pregnant women with diabetes could explain why their children develop the condition in later life, research has indicated.
Danish researchers say the increased risk of the child developing diabetes is due to ‘fundamental changes’ in the size of the women’s fat cells.
They also found larger quantities of leptin in the women with diabetes, a hormone which can influence hunger.
The researchers explained that babies of mothers with diabetes are more likely to have a condition called fetal hyperglycemia, which means the child becomes exposed to high blood sugar levels while in the womb.
Lead study author Ninna Schioler, from the Hansen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, said: “Fetal hyperglycemia affects fat stem cells and these defects can be detected several years later.
“If (high blood sugar) or diabetes is present during pregnancy, our study supports the importance of aiming at normal blood glucose levels to reduce the negative impact on the cells of the unborn baby.
“Women who are lean and fit before pregnancy have a reduced risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.”
The small study involved 206 women, some of whom had diabetes before falling pregnant, some who had developed gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, and some who did not have diabetes at all.
The researchers said it is possible the differences in the women could be down to other fetal development factors, but the findings suggest there is a link between diabetes and an increased risk in the unborn baby eventually developing diabetes.
Women with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes could be at a higher risk of giving birth to a bigger baby or having a miscarriage. They are recommended to ensure their diabetes is well controlled and seek professional medical advice before becoming pregnant.
The findings have been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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